Fundraising Abroad: No ‘Bundling’ at U.S. Embassy Visa Desks Allowed

Photograph by Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

Mitt Romney, second right, tours the GREAT Pavilion Exhibit with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, second left, in London on July 26, 2012.

When it comes to political giving, both presidential candidates are for repatriation.

The campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney each have held fundraisers abroad. More are planned, including an event featuring George Clooney for Obama in Geneva in late August.

Romney will hold a London event tonight, which originally had former Barclays PLC CEO Robert Diamond as a co-host.  Diamond resigned from the bank in the wake of the Libor scandal and quietly pulled out from the fundraiser.

But Patrick Durkin, a Barclay’s lobbyist, is helping collect checks, which start at $2,500 for a reception and run to $25,000 for dinner. Executives from Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank AG are also co-hosts.

There are two basic rules for raising money on foreign soil. One, you have to be an American to give. Two, if you’re a sitting ambassador, you can donate, but you can’t ask your friends to do the same.

No “bundling” allowed at the embassy’s visa desk.

This cycle, Obama has raised $603,000 at overseas events, including a July 11 reception in Shanghai, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Earlier this year, Obama bundlers held a “cocktails and light supper” fundraiser in Geneva. The top ticket price was $35,800.

Incumbency offers many fundraising advantages, but it comes with some costs. And Obama has lost some of his best money-men (and women) to diplomacy, like Lou Susman in London, Charles Rivkin in Paris and Alan Solomont in Madrid.

The president appointed 24 of his 2008 campaign bundlers to ambassadorships, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Collectively, they raised more than $10 million. While a few have come home (two left in the wake of critical inspector general reports on embassy management), more than 20 remain in their ambassador’s residences.

That either leaves most of a potential $10 million in Democratic donations on the table, or up for grabs.

Whoever gets the credit for bundling this time around, may just find themselves in London, Paris, or Madrid. The nicest residence in continental Europe is said to be in Rome.

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